I want to be clear from the outset of this article that, while I regret that I cannot endorse Kay Arthur’s materials or conferences, I do not believe the content of her written or verbal teaching contains or promotes false doctrine, and I am not labeling her a false teacher or a heretic.
Kay Arthur might be considered, and deservedly so, one of the “founding mothers” of women’s Bible study. Kay and her husband Jack served as missionaries in Mexico for 3½ years before returning to the United States and founding Precept Ministries International in 1970. The teaching goal of Precept is to instruct Christians in the Bible “book by book, verse by verse, using the Inductive Bible Study method.” Now in her eighties, Kay is still going strong. She has written numerous books, teaches all over the world, and hosts Precepts for Life, a daily television, radio, and on-line Bible study program.¹
Kay seems to be a lovely person with an almost tangible passion for people to study and rightly handle the word of God. She is a fine role model for younger women, showcasing growth to godly maturity, and a solid example to older women that serving Christ is something we never retire from. Kay comports herself like a lady and exudes warmth, grace, kindness, and a sort of motherly love towards those under her teaching. She is the kind of woman I aspire to be, and I would very much like to be able to wholeheartedly endorse her.
Because of the plethora of false teachers in the women’s Bible study realm, and due to other issues in question, several readers have written to me asking if I recommend Kay Arthur as a trustworthy Bible study author and speaker. With most teachers this answer comes easily, because there is ample evidence of the teacher’s Bible twisting (or doctrinal soundness) and/or sinful (or godly) behavior. Kay’s case, however, is more complex, so I would like to address the issues which are components in whether or not I endorse a particular teacher.
In order to address these issues, on top of my usual research, I have attempted to contact Kay Arthur with some questions (at this time she has not responded). I have also interviewed a doctrinally sound, discerning source who has been a Precept leader for several years and taught many of Kay Arthur’s studies. She has sat under Kay Arthur’s teaching in person at various Precept meetings and conferences, and has interacted with many other Precept leaders. For personal reasons, my source prefers to remain anonymous, so I will refer to her as “Jill.”
When evaluating a female teacher or author to determine whether or not I will recommend her, I research her teaching and habits in three main areas: her doctrine and hermeneutics, her ministry partnerships and associations, and her behavior. Another major consideration is whether or not any problems in these three areas are current, ongoing, and unrepentant, or if there were issues of sin in these areas in the past that have since been repented of and corrected. We need to remember that even the godliest teacher is still a human being who sins as well as a Christian who learns God’s word and grows to maturity over the span of her lifetime. The issue is not whether a teacher has ever sinned in these areas, but whether a teacher knowingly persists in sin or is teachable, repents, and avoids sin when it is pointed out to her. Let’s examine Kay Arthur’s teaching and habits in these three areas.
Doctrine and Hermeneutics
Kay Arthur has been publicly teaching the Bible for nearly fifty years. That’s an extremely large body of teaching, books, and materials. Yet citations of biblical error in her doctrine and teaching from credible sources are nearly non-existent in comparison.
The one major red flag that has been raised by discerning sources about Kay’s doctrine is her endorsement of Neil Anderson’s books The Bondage Breaker and Victory Over the Darkness. Neil Anderson teaches an unbiblical view of spiritual warfare, and Kay should not have endorsed his books. It was unwise, undiscerning, and may indicate that she, herself, holds to an unbiblical doctrine of spiritual warfare.
That being said, Id like to point out that Victory Over the Darkness was published in 2000. Sixteen years ago. The Bondage Breaker was originally published in 1990, and a revised, second edition of the book came out in 2000. Does the revised edition of the book still carry Kay’s endorsement? Does she currently teach the aberrant view of spiritual warfare Anderson is known for? In the last sixteen years has Kay grown in her discernment and knowledge of the Bible to the point that she would never consider endorsing Anderson’s books now? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I’m not seeing any accusations out there that Kay is currently teaching unbiblical doctrine concerning spiritual warfare or any other essential tenet of Christianity.
“The association with Neil Anderson…I am completely unaware of that. I will say in regard to her teaching on spiritual warfare that I have led the Precept Ephesians study and read the book Lord, Is It Warfare? and I see nothing out of line in either of those. She is very clear that we are not to engage the enemy (my words, not hers). That our line of defense is the sword of the Spirit – the Bible – just like Jesus defense against Satan when tempted was the Word. She brought out passages like Jude 9 where even the archangel Michael didn’t rebuke the devil.”
Jill’s experience is puzzling in light of another citation of unbiblical teaching on spiritual warfare in this quote from Kay’s 2006 book, Lord, I Give You this Day: 366 Appointments with God:
“When I deal with recurring thoughts that are contrary to Philippians 4:8, I often will say something like this: “Satan, those thoughts are not from God. You have no place in me. Therefore, in the name of Jesus Christ and by His blood, I command you to leave me alone.” Why address Satan? Jesus did. He rebuked him and told him to leave.
If you’re harassed by persistent evil or demoralizing thoughts, then verbally address Satan in this way. Claim the blood of Jesus Christ, which defeated Satan. The devil may come back with a second round of fire—and maybe more. But when you continue to hold your ground in faithful obedience, you’ll know the joy of victory.”
Just because Jesus said or did something doesn’t mean we’re to say or do that same thing (Jesus also equated Himself with God and rebuked a storm, for example.). Jesus, being God, has the authority to address Satan directly. We do not. Scripture doesn’t teach us anywhere to address Satan. We don’t see any of the apostles addressing Satan. Jude 9 indicates that even Michael the archangel wouldn’t presume to address Satan. In this quote, Kay has not only taught an unbiblical premise, she has demonstrated poor hermeneutics, taking a descriptive passage (Jesus addressing Satan) and making it into a prescriptive passage (a command to follow).
Again, this book was written over ten years ago, in 2006. The Ephesians study Jill cites was published (revised edition) in 2012. Is it possible that, some time in those six years, Kay repented of this false teaching on spiritual warfare and is now handling God’s word correctly in this area of theology? This may be the case, but the elementary hermeneutical mistake of confusing descriptive and prescriptive passages should certainly warn us to examine all of her teachings extremely carefully.
Ministry Partnerships and Associations:
This is the area that seems to be of most concern to the average Christian woman who is trying to decide whether or not to follow Kay Arthur. For four years, Kay partnered with false teachers Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer in LifeWay’s Deeper Still women’s conferences. The last of these joint conferences took place in June 2011. During that time LifeWay “packaged” the three women together in a variety of ways. I, myself, recall quipping that they were LifeWay’s “holy trinity of women’s Bible study.” However, I cannot find any evidence of Kay partnering with either Beth or Priscilla in the last five years. So far as I can tell, they have not shared a stage or co-authored any materials since 2011. (Kay does, however, still sell the two Deeper Still companion books she co-authored with Beth and Priscilla on the Precept web site.)
“Concerning the yoking with Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer – she has said that her hope in doing that was to take these young women under her wing and teach them as an older woman. That was not what happened, so she distanced herself from them.”
“I can tell you that I have heard her caution women against following people who teach contemplative prayer without naming those people directly. But it was very clear the way she described the people she was cautioning against that she was describing Beth Moore (and probably Priscilla Shirer, too). She used words like “great influence,” “large following,” “thousands of people are listening to these women.” She also said specifically about the book Jesus Calling without saying the title itself.. .”Jesus only spoke in the first person in one book and this (held up her Bible) is it. If you are allowing that sort of stuff in your life, you need to stop.”
In 2002, Kay was one of the featured speakers at THRIVE: Becoming a Woman of Influence, a women’s conference simulcast. One of the other speakers was Joyce Meyer. As far as I can tell, they have not shared a stage since.
“Concerning the speaking at the Joyce Meyer conference many years ago – what is MUCH harder to find is what she actually said at that event. She actually went behind Joyce and corrected her false teaching… She wasn’t invited back.”
In 2011, a staffer with Transform Student Ministries (an arm of Precept ministering to college students) posted a blog article on the TSM site containing an excerpt of false teacher Steven Furtick’s book Sun Stand Still. The article encouraged readers to put Furtick’s teaching from the excerpt into practice. When this was brought to the attention of TSM’s leadership, the blog post was removed and there have been no reports of TSM, Precept, or Kay Arthur using Furtick’s materials since that time.
More recently Kay has appeared at Break Forth Canada in 2013 and 2015 as well as in earlier years (she is not scheduled to appear in 2016). Break Forth Canada routinely features contemplative and Emergent speakers such as Tony Campolo, Erwin McManus, and Leonard Sweet.
Kay Arthur’s position has long been that she will speak anywhere she is invited in order to get her message out. To my knowledge, her messages in all of these venues have been doctrinally sound and possibly even correcting of false doctrine taught by some she shared a stage with. It does not seem that she acquiesced to any false doctrine of the sponsors of these conferences or of others on the dais. What is in question is her decision to appear along with those who are false teachers.
While the desire to speak biblical truth anywhere you’re invited is admirable, it is not always necessarily biblical. God’s word is abundantly clear that we are to mark and avoid false teachers and that we are not to partner with them. The Bible doesn’t say avoid false teachers and don’t partner with them unless you’re teaching a doctrinally sound message alongside them or at their conference. It just says “don’t.”
Because Kay has chosen to speak alongside false teachers, we now have an illustration of why the Bible says not to do this. First, because Kay is regarded as a doctrinally sound teacher, she lends credibility to the false teachers and doctrine she is associating herself with. Second, Kay’s own reputation as a doctrinally sound teacher is being called into question by discerning Christians who are knowledgeable about the false teachers and doctrine she is associating herself with.
Kay and her staff need to do a better and more discerning job of vetting the people she shares a stage with and the doctrine of the conferences she speaks at. Her policy regarding accepting speaking engagements should be modified to line up with God’s word.
While, as I’ve already stated, Kay is the quintessence of ladylike behavior, grace, and kindness, there is a major area of her behavior which is unbiblical. One of the important things I look for when evaluating a female teacher is whether or not she teaches men (co-ed audiences) in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. I do not endorse female teachers who unrepentantly persist in this sin any more than I would endorse a male pastor or teacher who unrepentantly persists in another sin.
“In regard to how Kay handles teaching over men…. When I have watched a Precept-produced video, I have seen men in the audience of Kay’s recordings. But only the men that are on staff. Usually one or two. The only time I have been on campus is for a women’s conference. There are men floating around, but they’re usually popping in to handle facility matters – or audio visual technicians and that’s about it. Every now and then her son or husband would sneak in the back and sit and listen. But the women pretty much take over the whole campus…They offer both male and female video lessons for their studies so that mixed audiences can have a male teacher. The male teachers are an assortment of men on their staff and the female are always Kay. I will agree that she does not say “women only” on all her speaking engagements in churches she goes to speak to.”
If it were only a matter of male staff members, her son (who is the CEO of Precept), or her husband (who is also on staff at Precept) sitting in on Kay’s teaching sessions occasionally as part of their jobs, there would be no problem. As I have written in the past, there are some biblically legitimate reasons why a man might be present when a woman is teaching, and this is one of them.
Unfortunately the men in Kay’s audiences are not limited to her male staff members, and she goes beyond merely failing to indicate that her lectures are for women only. Kay seems to have no qualms about speaking at co-ed events and conferences (such as the aforementioned Break Forth Canada), and the Eventbrite page for the June 2016 Prepared for the Days Ahead conference, which the Precept site links to, actually invites men in the very first sentence:
Ladies, when the Bible clearly says not to do something and we do it anyway, justifying our behavior with excuses and caveats, that is sin. And when we have lots of eyes on us like Kay does, we have an even greater responsibility to set a godly example with our behavior. As good an example as Kay sets in other areas of her life and teaching, she sets a very poor and damaging example by unrepentantly persisting in the sin of teaching men.
Because her doctrine seems to be generally sound and she handles God’s word correctly for the most part, I will not say that Kay Arthur is a false teacher or a heretic. However, because she continues in the sin of teaching men and doesn’t see that speaking at conferences which use her good name to promote false doctrine is biblically problematic, I cannot commend her or her materials and conferences to others. There are many other fine Bible teachers and authors out there, both male and female, whose doctrine is sound and whose behavior in these areas is not in question.
It is my hope that Kay will repent where repentance is needed and bring these areas of her life and ministry into submission to and alignment with God’s word. It would then give me great joy to enthusiastically endorse her.
¹Kay Arthur – Co-Founder of Precept Ministries on the Precept Ministries International web site.
Disclaimer: The specific links below are provided and endorsed as evidence pertaining to this article only. I do not endorse any of these sites in so far as any of them might deviate from Scripture or conflict with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome or Statement of Faith tabs at the top of this page.
Additionally, I would urge you, when examining these resources, to take note of the dates of the events referred to and consider whether or not Kay Arthur is still engaging in these beliefs and practices.
The Question of Recommending Kay Arthur by Lori Williams
The Bomb Was Bound To Burst About Kay Arthur From Precept Ministries International at For the Love of His Truth
Is Kay Arthur More Biblically Sound? at Branded
Kay Arthur at Apprising Ministries
Happy Birthday, Kay Arthur! by Elizabeth Prata
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